2. At the axis mundi

Hola amigos!

Greetings again from Peru.

I continue to get a little further immersed. This morning I went out to get some gas for my camp stove and discovered that there's a little open-air market place just a few blocks from the house. I hadn't been able to find fresh veggies locally (please admire my sprouting tray though, in the photos I have up), and they were selling little bags of cut up cabbage, carrots etc for soup. Price 30c, a dime. Got some quinoa too, the famous Andean high-protein grain.

I started doing some labor yesterday and realized I'm gonna have to get quite serious about protein. This week the project is putting concrete floors in this 4 story structure. My job is to carry the sand and gravel up in a 5-gal bucket. It's actually pretty grueling. Just doing 5 hrs a day tho. Since I didn't get in as much backpacking as I'd have liked this year, I'll count this as staying in shape for 09. Knees held up okay so far, and I've moved all the truckloads they brought, so perhaps the next tasks will be less taxing.

I did get in a long hike on Sunday, from around Chincero, for those of you who know the country, to the Vilcanota river at Lemay. I picked up a stone after the first few yards, and had blown quite a bit into it by the time I was approaching the pass. But then I noticed a peak to my right with a big "apucheta" on the top. Well, if the issue is whether to follow the trail or take off cross-country, my inclination is usually the latter, so I set off to add my kuya to those already up there. Nice view of Ausangate and a lot of other peaks. The 15K summit was a transition for the day, because I also hate going back down the way I've gone up something, so I set out across country for several miles further, later intercepting another trail down to the ruins called "Huchuy Qosqo" and the river. My knees and toes were a bit worn from descending, but it was worth it. Along the way I saw this stone circle in a high cirque above the little huts and stone corrals. And a little later I came upon the good-sized carnivore skull in the photos. I was about to stuff it in my pack, when something said no. It was laying on an open slope, where the people in the area would easily come across it while out with their herds, and I'd been seeing herds of sheep and llamas at a distance. It occurred to me that it might signify something in the way of protection or propitiation, some work with that otorongo archetype, so I left my aquisitive tendency at home for once. I'm content with the photo. The route out led past this village, Puca Marca, and the ruins, which are located above Lamay.


Yesterday, while I was shlepping buckets of gravel, a very old guy came walking along. He was wrinkled and almost toothless. He stood and watched me for a while. I'd come out the door, set down my bucket, shovel in the rocks, then swing it up to my shoulder and disappear. A minute or so later, same thing. I nodded at him and smiled. Finally he came over and started to talk. It was Quechua, and I couldn't understand a word. I said "no hablo Espagnol, no hablo Quechua". Made no difference to him. He had stuff to say to me, so he said it. The guy had this very sweet air about him. He was connecting quite deeply. Finally he stopped and then said very clearly, 2-3 times "Ch'aska", and then a couple sentences with "ch'aska" in them. So I repeated the word, and he nodded. Then I reached out and took his hand and we stood there and gazed for a minute or two. No offense to any Waking Down in Mutuality teachers reading this, but this guy had the most powerful gazing transmission I've ever felt. It was a deep deep Love and Being. We shook hands a little more and he continued along his way.

I asked someone later what ch'aska means. "Star." or sometimes, "messenger". Hmmm

Initiation at Pachatusan.

I've been looking forward to visiting Apu Pachatusan since last summer. Standing at the top of the Pisac Temple site, I had scanned the horizon and felt some connection to the peak of Pachatusan at a distance. I had connected with something that seemed to hold a clue about what Nature wants of me. I'd learned that Pachatusan is called the "axis mundi", the center of this world. Cusco (originally Q'osqo) is itself the Quechua term for center or navel. So when don Francisco asked, on the evening I arrived here, if I'd like to do ceremony at Pachatusan, seen here with the day's snow,  I felt like something quite good was coming together.


We left fairly early, having to first travel to the market where the various components to do traditional ceremony are sold. Then caught a bus from there to Tipon, which has an extensive Inca site as well. Here don Francisco bargained quite a while for a car to take us up the mountain. I think the trip was less costly in his recollection than the driver judged it to be. And I think probably the driver's sense of it was pretty accurate. It took about an hour to wind our way up the track, through little villages, and then tiny 1- or 2-house settlements, frequently coming to difficult spots with mud, streams across the track, or just very rough going. Once we got out and pushed. Finally we arrived at a high plateau. There were a few people there plowing to plant potatoes. They had both a tractor and a team of oxen;  I guess the tractor was for the flatter areas and the team could negotiate the rougher areas. 

Walking across the high country, I added this rock formation to my intimations of "puma energy".


Then a bit of a hike, and a snack. There seems to be a custom to eat a bit before doing ceremony. I thought we were probably going to do the ceremony where we stopped to eat, as it was a nice high knoll. But we went on another few hundred yards, and suddenly, coming around a rise, came to a rock formation that was obviously the place. Don Francisco turned back and grinned at me. Si, huaca!, I shouted. He said "mesa-rumi", which means literally "table stone", but more specifically refers to indigenous power sites where these ceremonies have been done for centuries.

We repeated the familiar despacho pattern, alternating giving thanks and asking blessings. I had the thought that in a sense that's what life is anyway. Always reaching for more, and feeling the joy in what has come to us. The weather turned more and more grey and moist, with a few big splats of rain falling on the despacho. Again prayers were offered for many aspects of life, and again for our ayllus in America, and for the success of the new president.  The connection, the flow of what the Andean peoples want to give to the rest of humanity, has begun to feel very tangible.

We'd set the fire before starting the despacho, and dona Juanita left to light it before we were done. As soon as we wrapped the bundle, we took it to the fire, which was placed in the chimney-like slot in the rock. Then Don Francisco said, "now, Alto Mesayoc". (Alto-mesayoc is the Quechua name for the empowerment which, in Alberto Villoldo's framing of the Munay-ki, is called the Wisdom-keeper Rite.  More clearly than ever before, I feel these rites penetrating into me here. But this one was rather exceptionally so: As he finished, and was more or less shouting "Alto Mesayoc" in the wind, and pounding his heavy mesa bundle into my body, there was a loud clap of thunder. I was breathing deeply. Dona Juanita came up, and repeated the transmission, and, at the same point, another very loud thunderclap. In the whole time we were on the mountain, through much wind, rain, and hail, there were only those two thunderbolts; just as i was receiving the altomesayoc karpay. I've heard that one way people receive this initiation is by being struck by lightning. I took this to be a very good sign that something had come through. (And am hoping that actually being struck by lightning won't be necessary.) We get so easily stuck in our habits and identifications, no wonder this "divine masculine", discriminative capacity takes very big energy to break through.

As it happens, one of the books I've been reading here is Daniel Pinchbeck's Breaking Open the Head. He powerfully and clearly conveys the revival of the shamanic worldview. Though his topic is largely "plant medicine", the context he puts it in is far broader.

Enough for now. Thanks for your messages of support.


Next page: 3.A Laborer in Peru